Friday, February 26, 2010

TGIF

This has been a rough week. Monday morning found me undergoing surgery to repair two hernias. It was supposed to be an outpatient procedure, but I ended up spending Monday night in the hospital. The recovery is slow, but I hope to be able to go back to work on Monday. We'll see.

Here are the links for this week:

Update from iMonk.
Scot McKnight reviews Eugene Peterson. Part 1 is here.
A good resource for families wanting to follow the church calendar. (HT: Scot McKnight)
Evidently this is for real.
Recovering Revelation.
Fame is fleeting.
Kingdom grace has a set of questions.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

A Milestone?

Yesterday was my 300th post on this blog. I had posted a few thoughts on xanga and myspace before, but a little over two years ago I decided to begin writing on this blog.

It's been an interesting 26 months. I've gone from being part of a group that was trying to "modernize" a traditional, conservative church to being a part of a fellowship that meets in a bagel shop. I now see the local assembly as a part of the wider body of Christ that meets for fellowship and building each other up. Those meetings may or may not take place at a particular place or at a particular time. There are a number of other areas, such as leadership and church finances, where my thinking has changed. I've also become convinced that there is no one right way to "do church," and I am much more willing to extend grace to others who don't see things the same way.

Probably the greatest thing that has changed in the past two years is the growing importance of grace in my life. I can't think of anything that has had the impact of realizing that my Father loves me, no matter what. Not only does he love me, but he also likes me and delights in me. All of this is not dependent on what I do or don't do. It's all because of God's grace. That grace causes me to try and treat everyone with grace. I don't do it very well at times, but it is a motivator in my life.

I enjoy writing. I enjoy putting my thoughts out into cyberspace and receiving feedback from readers. I don't expect to ever be on anyone's top ten blogger list, but that's okay. I'll continue to write, and a few folks will continue to read. If anyone happens to be blessed by it, so much the better.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

World Vision Wednesday

In addition to the great need in Haiti, World Vision is working in many other places to serve the less fortunate. Here is a story about the impact a health clinic in Sudan is having on the 15,000 people it serves.

This happens to be post number 300 on this blog. I may write more about that tomorrow, since I don't have a whole lot else to do right now.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Reflections on Lent

Last Wednesday was the first day of Lent. Ash Wednesday is celebrated by Christians around the world with a service that includes the placing of ashes on the forehead of the worshippers. The ashes are to remind that we are made from dust, and to dust we will return. That is one part of the Lenten observance that I have not yet participated in, as I have only been observing Lent for the last three years. In the tradition in which I grew up, Lent (like most of the church calendar) was not even on our radar. We celebrated Christmas, Palm Sunday, and Easter. I had a vague notion that other days were observed in other traditions, but we were taught that those days were not important. So, I'm a bit late to the keeping of the church calendar, and still learning.

As I go through the Lenten period, I am struck by the fact that our bodies are formed from the dust of the ground, and to that dust they will return. Because of the brokenness of Creation, we face the inevitable decay of our physical selves. Anyone middle-aged man who has tried to compete in sports at the same level he did when he was in his twenties can attest to that. At some point our bodies will wear out and no longer be useful to us. When they are then placed in the ground, they will return to the dust from which they came. As we look around us, we see that decay in every part of our world. Ash Wednesday and Lent are good reminders that we are broken and in need of a savior.

Thankfully, that is not the end of the story. During this time, we take a good hard look at our humanity and our brokenness, but we also look ahead to the time when our Savior will return and will restore Creation. We look forward to the resurrection and the Kingdom of God coming in all its fullness. When I think about Ash Wednesday, and the symbolism of the ashes on the forehead, I think of the song, "Beauty Will Rise." In that song Steven Curtis Chapman sings,

"Out of these ashes... beauty will rise
and we will dance among the ruins
We will see Him with our own eyes
Out of these ashes...beauty will rise
For we know, joy is coming in the morning...
in the morning

...This is our hope.
This is the promise.
That it would take our breath away
to see the beauty that's been made
out of the ashes..."

As we go through this season of Lent, contemplating our sinfulness and our need of a redeemer, let us remember that we do have a Savior who has made us a new creation, and who will one day make all things new.

Friday, February 19, 2010

TGIF

Another week has come and gone. Basketball season has ended and softball has begun. I'm going to spend the weekend relaxing and preparing for a bit of surgery on Monday. I have a couple of hernias that need to be repaired. It should be a simple operation, and hopefully I'll only be laid up for a week.

Keep reading for the links of the week:

Following God and farming.
Josh contemplates death.
A classic from iMonk.
Just in case you wanted to record an audiobook.
A new kind of conversation.
Redeeming car wrecks.
What were you doing when you first heard this song? (For those of us a bit older)
An interesting way of stopping people from dancing. (HT: Scot McKnight)
A Lenten plea.

That's it for this week. Enjoy your weekend.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

World Vision Wednesday

One month after the devastating earthquake in Haiti, there remains much work to be done. There is still need for short term emergency relief, but the focus is now turning to the long term help that the Haitians will need. Check this out to see how you can help World Vision as they minister there.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Too Comfortable With Jesus?

In Mark 6, Jesus is teaching in the synagogue in his hometown. The people are amazed at his teaching and wisdom. Matthew 13 tells us that his neighbors also were amazed at his miracles. They asked how Jesus got all this wisdom and power. After all, this was the same man who had grown up in their town. They knew his family. He had played with their children. Jesus had probably done work for them. They knew Jesus, or at least they thought they did. He was one of them. They were comfortable with this neighbor.

According to the text, thinking that they had Jesus all figured out caused a lack of faith in them. They couldn't believe that this small town boy could do the miracles he was doing or teach with the wisdom he was showing. Even with the evidence staring them in the face, their familiarity with Jesus blinded them to what God was doing. Consequently, Jesus did not do many miracles in his hometown.

How easy is it for us to become comfortable with Jesus? Growing up, I heard the stories. I saw the flannel graph pictures. I became familiar with this soft spoken. gentle, fair-haired Savior who seemed to float serenely through first century Palestine ( except for the time that he really got ticked off at the money changers in the Temple). I was a Christian. I had asked Jesus to come into my heart, and since I had my "get out of hell free" card, I grew complacent in the relationship. I prayed, and asked forgiveness when I sinned, but the relationship was not really a close one. I had my image of Christ, and didn't really expect him to ask much more of me than being a good boy and "worshipping" him when the church doors were open. I'm afraid that the image many churchgoers have of Jesus is not very different from that.

In the past couple of years, I've begun to learn to see Jesus more as he is. Through a few authors, particularly N. T. Wright and Dallas Willard, I have seen a different side of the Savior. Jesus the King has stepped into my path and shown himself to be exactly who the Gospels say he is. He is the Christ, the Anointed One of God. He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He is God incarnate. His Kingdom is now, not just in the future. Along with that, he is my brother and friend, and he calls me to follow and obey him out of love and gratitude for what he has done for me on the cross.

Jesus also calls me into a relationship with him, a relationship that is in many ways like those with other humans, but is so much better. That relationship is one where I am learning to not think that I have him all figured out, but rather to be open to anything he might do. In the Gospels, Jesus didn't fit into any one's preconceived notions, and he dealt with different people in different ways. So it is in my life. I am learning to expect the unexpected.

May we never say, "We have Jesus figured out. We know how he does things, and we know how he doesn't work."

Friday, February 12, 2010

TGIF

Tonight, my basketball season comes to an end. It's been a very enjoyable season. On the one hand, I'm sorry to see it end. I had the privilege of coaching a great group of girls this year. On the other hand, I'm glad that the late nights are over for awhile. The next thing is softball. I'm coaching a group of middle school girls. Should be fun. We're supposed to get snow this weekend here in the sunny South, but it still won't be as bad as what the Northeast has been hit with the past few days.

Here are the links:

Today is a national day of mourning in Haiti. Continue to pray for the people there.
A report card on the US budget from one.org
Tech, the Church, and the death of community.
Pam writes about Brian McLaren and his new book.

Russ Masterson thinks he knows why Jesus was a carpenter.
What we hope for.
NOW hated the wrong ad.
Love hopes all things.

This is good.
Dr. Matt's marriage counseling.
Removing the restrictions.
The spiritual language of membership.

There's been a lot of talk about the state of the emerging church lately. Jonathan Brink weighs in here.
Scot McKnight say schools should bring back PE.
A mystery is solved.
John Armstrong writes about an unfortunate incident in Haiti.

May God bless you this weekend.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

World Vision Wednesday

World Vision staff member Jesse Eaves continues his visits to World Vision's child protection programs in Eastern Europe. This post is about his time in Georgia.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Putting God on Your "To Do" List

The other day, I passed a church sign that read, "Where is God on your 'To Do' list? Check your priorities." While I think the emphasis of the message is that we need to have our priorities straight, especially our relationship with God, I also think the sign reveals a mindset among many that God is one part of our life among many others.

I grew up in a church culture that separated life into "secular" and "sacred." Things like church activities, "quiet time," witnessing, etc. were sacred. Things like school , work, and play were secular. While we were still told to "keep a good testimony" during those activities, they were seen as less important than the "spiritual" ones. Over the years, I saw many examples of this, from preachers asking us to compare the amount of time we spent in church activities with the amount of time doing other things, to players and coaches in church athletic leagues arguing with officials. There was a clear distinction made between the things that were "spiritual" and everything else.

That way of thinking creates a view that God is an item on a to do list, something to be checked off and then left while we go on to other things. I don't believe that Scripture supports that. We are told to seek the Kingdom of God first. I think that means more than just saying hello to God in the morning. The Kingdom of God is the place where God's rule is present. That should be every area of our life, twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. Jesus Christ is Lord, he is King. We are not someday going, "to be there when they crown him King of Kings." He is that now and therefore all of life is under his rule. Our duty and privilege is to bring that rule to bear as we go about our day-to-day activities.

For the follower of Jesus, there is no secular. All of life is sacred. God is not on our to do list. He is the list. God is not one priority among many. He is our only priority. If we seek the Kingdom and God's righteousness first, all of our other needs will be provided, including the grace and wisdom for the things we deal with each day.

Friday, February 5, 2010

TGIF

February is the shortest month, but it always seems to last the longest. I think someone added a day to this week. It's cold here in the sunny South, and we haven't seen a whole lot of sun lately. With four games left, basketball season is winding down, and softball is about to begin. Although, if it doesn't dry up a bit, the team will have to play in waders.

Here is a sampling of what I've seen this week:

Worship without walls.
A manifesto?
Just dust.
Chasing Amy.
An interview with painter Makoto Fujimura.
Getting beyond billboard Jesus.

Sometimes, kids just have trouble with words.
Pam on mega-churches.
Continue to pray for iMonk.
Rules of engagement.
Dangerous questions.
Speaking to the church.
Rethinking running shoes. (HT: Scot McKnight)

TGIF will be back next week, if I don't float away in the meantime. Enjoy your weekend.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

World Vision Wednesday

As Haiti continues to struggle to dig out and rebuild after the earthquake, World Vision continues to serve the people there. You can read about all that is being done and how you can help by going here.

Weekend Wanderings

Weekend Wanderings will be away for the next two weekends. We're heading out to the Left Coast to meet our new grandchild, who is expect...